The role of the army in national life is always like walking on a tightrope. The army's basic and only job is to ensure the security of the country it protects. Period. However, as history shows, ideology often plays a role in how an army performs its job. In most banana republics, soldiers become an arm of the government's dictatorial policies. In Turkey, the army ensures that the country does not stray from Kemal Ataturk's founding principles of secularism, throwing out governments that violate those rules even if they were democratically elected.
In Israel, the army often finds itself in even more of a bind, given the deep divisions within society there. On one side are those who will, through moral conscience and post-Zionist guilt, not accept duty within Yehuda and Shomron. On the other are those who, through religious conscience and an adherence to halacha, not accept orders that they feel violate their Torah beliefs.
In general the Israeli army has tried to balance these extremes and walk the tightrope as much as possible. Despite some aberrations (Yitchak Rabin's creation, for example, of brigades full of leftist soldiers and officers to send into Yehuda, Shomron and 'Aza in the event of a withdrawal) Tzahal has been quite successful at this task.
Nor do average citizens take kindly to the thought of the army being used for political ends. A couple of years ago several dozen youth famously organized a protest and refused to report for army duty because of their aversion to serving in Yehuda and Shomron. Thousands more responded by showing up for voluntary duty. These people came from different sections of Israeli society, united by their opposition to the army politicizing itself.
The latest crisis now seems to be coming from the Dati Leumi community. The recent events involving the Har Bracha yeshiva in which the authority of the army over its soldiers was challenged have thrust this community, the most patriotic in Israel, into a negative spotlight. It's one thing to be a Chareidi draft-avoider cloitered in a dingy yeshivah out of sight, quite another to be Dati Leumi, in full view and challenged the authority of the State.
Fortunately, many in a position of leadership in the community have come out and strongly denounced this trend while it is still in its infancy:
Rabbis Aharon Lichtenstein, Yehuda Amital, Baruch Gigi, Moshe Lichtenstein, and Yaaqov Medan, said in their statement that they object to any political displays in the military and that any yeshiva students to take part in political protests in the army will be dealt with severely.
The rabbis, who are considered among the moderates of the hesder yeshivas, stressed in their document, which is to be distributed to thousands of yeshiva graduates that "the yeshiva considers itself part of the people residing in Zion, and considers the strength of the State of Israel and the IDF a very important value."
According to the rabbis: "The yeshiva students are soldiers, with all this implies, during their military service, and are obligated to display complete loyalty to the military and its command."
The rabbis stressed that in the event of receiving an order that goes against a soldier's conscience, the soldier in question must 'walk between the drops' and avoid, as much as possible, any conflict between the military orders and the mitzvoth of the Torah and halacha.
"The yeshiva instructs its students, as a general policy, to try and minimize the strife as much as possible, and reach solutions that are compatible with the halacha on the one hand, and the military's ability to function in an acceptable manner on the other hand," the statement said.
The yeshiva stated that it, together with the Hesder Yeshiva Association, would work to build a joint mechanism with the IDF to treat such tense points, "in cooperation, mutual respect, solidarity, and a desire to work the problem out rather than make bigger.
In any democracy, change in policy must be accomplished through participation in government, not through illegal activities. A soldier who has a problem with an order has options like accepting a discharge or even being court martialled. Certainly if a large group of soldiers does not wish to follow orders, it can pursue proper channels of protest. However, if the Dati Leumi community wishes to participate in national life, it must recognize that participating in the army will mean being part of decisions that may be against its ideology. The only way to avoid that is the Chareidi option of simply avoiding the problem altogether.
Hopefull with the help of this leadership, this situation can be defused and cooler heads can prevail.